14 Shows From The '90s That You Should Give A Second Chance
At this point, we've all seen Friends and Seinfeld, those '90s shows that were loved by viewers and critics alike. Those shows that are still celebrated for how great they really were. But there were actually other shows that aired in this decade that are totally worth watching. These may not be the most beloved of the decade, but they are certainly the most underrated shows from the '90s. The ones that you may have only heard about if you actually grew up in the decade — and, even then, you may have missed some of these under the radar shows. Most of them were definitely gone too soon.
Chalk this up to the lack of networks running prestigious television. But, thanks to the internet, you can now revisit the best that the '90s had to offer, even if the majority of TV watchers didn't realize it until now. This list focuses on those shows that were ahead of their time, tackling topics that seemed taboo. These were shows that tried to get rid of the laugh track and just make you think. The kind of shows that would fit better in a 2016 lineup then any network's lineup in the '90s. From comedy to drama, these shows were so unique and now deserve a second life.
1. The Mystery Files Of Shelby Woo
Shelby Woo is a detective... sort of. She's actually just working at the police station after school, but she's still delving into the crimes that are taking place in her town. With help from her grandfather, Shelby Woo is representing for all the smart teens out there — not to mention representing for Chinese Americans, who, even now, don't get a lot of starring roles.
2. The Tick
This satire of the superhero genre was ahead of its time. It was a look at the mundanity that even superheroes deal with, like paying for new costumers and how funny it all could be. Back in 1994 when it debuted, he just seemed a little too odd for non-comic book fans, but now it seems like it would be the perfect complement to our Marvel obsessed culture. Don't believe me? Just check out the upcoming fall lineup of new shows, including two ( Son Of Zorn and Vanessa Hudgens' Powerless) that poke fun at the superhero lifestyle.
This teen show starring Mayim Bialik got real. I'm talking episodes about periods, abandonment, and alcoholism, not to mention fantasy scenes that featured Blossom getting advice from Mr. T, Alf, and Will Smith. The hats may seem dated now, but the topics this show dared to cover still make it a shining example of how to make a smart teen show.
4. Rocko's Modern Life
Whether you watched this little wallaby as a kid or not, this is a show that needs to be re-watched as an adult so you can fully understand the depth of its humor. Yeah, this show may have been on Nickelodeon, but, with its satirical wit that often veered into the raunchy, it was certainly for parents.
5. The Larry Sanders Show
Garry Shandling may be gone, but not forgotten, thanks to this show that looks at the behind the scenes of a late night show. Without it, we definitely wouldn't have 30 Rock or Curb Your Enthusiasm or even The Office, since this was an ultimate workplace comedy. Now, the satirical humor will feel right at home, so go back and relive its brilliance.
This was a show about a family of domesticated dinosaurs just going about their daily lives. It had catchphrases ("I'm the baby, gotta love me!") and cute Jim Henson created dinosaurs, but this was a show that focused on serious topics like environmentalism, women's rights, civil rights, and body image. Surprising I know, but even more surprising was how smartly they tackled all of this.
This featured Jason Alexander being even sleazier than George Constanza on a show that focused on a duck who was also a private detective. Who, I should mention, also didn't wear clothes. This show, which aired on USA from 1994 to 1997, was a stepping stone to more adult cartoons like Family Guy, but, at the time, it was just a bit too raunchy to last.
8. The Critic
From the producers of The Simpsons, Jon Lovitz was the movie critic Jay Sherman who didn't seem to really like movies. (His catchphrase was "It stinks!") This cult favorite show, though, did, recreating some of the best classic movie parodies of all time. For that reason alone, you need to re-watch this very funny and very self-deprecating show.
9. Homicide: Life On The Street
Did you like The Wire? Well, then do I have a show for you. This was the original Wire, based on a book by that show's creator David Simon. The show, which was the first real gritty police procedural, was a much more realistic look at what it's like to be a cop on the streets. It was like a much more intellectual version of Cops.
The best reason to watch this '90s sitcom created by Chuck Lorre? Christine Baranski. She's a marvel on this show that is named for Cybill Shepherd's character, who plays a struggling actress in her 40s still looking for her big break. Baranski is her hard-drinking best friend Maryann Thorpe, who isn't concerned about anyone's feelings. You'll hate to love her, but definitely don't beat yourself up over it. Just keep laughing.
11. The Ben Stiller Show
Before he was a movie star, he was playing one on TV — a lot of them. He was doing impressions of Tom Cruise and Al Pacino, not to mention Bono and Bruce Springsteen. There was no laugh track on this one, which may had made it harder for audiences to get back then. But you'll be laughing all on your own now.
12. Northern Exposure
This underrated show was what would be called "quality television." When a doctor moves from New York to Alaska, he has a bit of culture shock as he tries to find his footing in this unknown town. With help from John Corbett and others, he eventually finds his way, learning a few lessons in the process. Like Gilmore Girls, this show focuses on the quirky personalities of everyone in town.
13. Sports Night
Josh Charles and Peter Krause are sportscasters on a Sports Center-like show that was written by Aaron Sorkin, so, yes, it's wordy. But it's also funny, sweet, and surprising in a way that makes it worth watching now. Seriously, you're going to fall in love with Josh Charles all over again.
14. Parker Lewis Can't Lose
This teen sitcom was a play on Ferris Bueller's Day Off, focusing on a kid, who, as the title suggests, can't lose. Parker Lewis' only problem is his principal who has it out for him. The regular teen shenanigans happen, but this show was a little smarter than your average teen show of the '90s. Whether you're a teen or not now, don't sleep on this one.
Sure, there's so much good TV to watch, but to get a better sense of how we got to this renaissance, it's best to check these shows out. Without them, TV may have have never been able to be as good as it is now. Just something to think about while you're marathoning through these 14 shows.
Image: Paramount Television